By B.A. Van Sise
The written word is, at its core, not a word at all, but an unmouthed, unheard image- the idea of a word, itself the idea of a thought, itself the idea of a person: some stranger trying to turn a glimmer of fleeting conviction into a forever-thing. No, the written word is not a word, but a pressed impression of ink, set with weight into paper, that we view as we view one another: a series of abstract lines and curves, that we interpret into something we feel we can understand.
When the Poetry Society of New York offered me a residency at the New York Public Library, I struggled to understand just what I might do with such a thing. I am not a poet. I cannot tell you the first thing about iambs or enjambments, let alone know what to do with them if you threw them at me by the bagful. However, after three years photographing poets, I know a thing or two about translating poetry into visuals, and about translating total strangers into new media.
So, for one day this spring, I took over the New York Public Library at 42nd Street -or at least a small corner of it- and dragooned several dozen New York City library patrons into my service. I used projections of pages of the books they themselves had with them as my light, and as their story, casting their learning and entertainment onto them, creating jumbled pieces of found poems on the patrons themselves.
In the end, I found that I had created a sammelband- a book, as it were, comprising a number of separately printed, unrelated works, subsequently bound together, a portion of which is presented here. The people, it turns out, are poetry.